Girls want to be her, boys want to be with her. Such is the sentiment typically associated with an ‘it-girl’ – but today, ‘it’ comes in myriad forms. What does it take to be an it-girl? Are there certain criteria one must fulfil? The qualities are impossible to place; that ineffable je ne sais quoi seems second nature to the lucky few who possess it. But despite its envy-inducing effect, these women seem largely unmoved by their title – with the exception of Alexa Chung perhaps, who pointedly named her 2013 memoir It.

But the term was coined long before Chung took on the role by novelist Elinor Glyn, back in 1927. Glyn later suggested that Marilyn Monroe personified its essence. It’s not hard to see why – the Some Like it Hot actress is an eternal beacon of ‘it’, famed for embodying the textbook definition of beauty, celebrity and sex appeal all at once. Muse of Bob Dylan, ’60s poster child Edie Sedgwick exuded a similar aura of ambiguous importance. She had something the everywoman desired but could not name.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Duro Olowu (@duroolowu) on

With a reign as it-girl starting in the ’70s and spanning over 20 years, legendary model and musician Grace Jones brought an unexpected edge to the role. Long-cited as a pioneer of androgyny and a perennial inspiration for the ‘suiting’ trend, her icon status wasn’t immediate. It took a while for people to understand her – she was different, she wasn’t ‘feminine’. In Jean-Paul Goude’s infamous portraits, her presence was tangible, and a little intimidating.

Chloe Sevigny later joined Jones in fusing ‘it-girl’ with ‘cool girl’. In 1997, journalist Jay McInery of the New Yorker labelled Sevigny “the coolest girl in the world” and a further development ensued: less untouchable Hollywood beauty, more girl-about-town. The intrigue surrounding her lifestyle leapt off the magazine’s pages and entered the collective curiosity of teens and young women alike. The title was also appointed to fellow ’90s icon Kate Moss – helped no doubt by her repeated appearance on the covers of just about every newsstand publication. Her timeless look combined with her carefree sensibility made her suitably aspirational.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Chloe Sevigny Daily (@chloe_sevigny_daily) on

The internet has changed the it-girl’s profile. From self-made influencers to the Kardashian-Jenners, ‘she’ now has an online presence; one which documents the food she eats, her family, pets – evidencing a life led like any other. Or is it? These girls show just enough of their lives for us to be able to relate to, but make us feel like our less glamorous existences are sorely lacking. They withhold the struggles, the unfiltered reality; the stresses made public are presented strategically. Their lives are just perfect enough to make ours look bland in comparison.

Lil Miquela sums up this phenomenon. Although in her case, it’s easy to identify what separates her reality from ours: she doesn’t have one. Lil Miquela, or Miquela Sousa, is a fictional creation, existing on Instagram alone. Her pixelated persona aside, Miquela’s quality of life is coveted by 1.5 million people. But she is not merely a flippant influencer, posting mundane musings on her daily affairs and flaunting the latest designer goods — she is also, apparently, politically aware, with a bio pledging her allegiance to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by *~ MIQUELA ~* (@lilmiquela) on

Lil Miquela’s political conscience may be half-hearted, and essentially non-existent, but it sheds a light on the shifting expectations of the it-girl from its inception to the modern age. Where once, the it-girl sat pretty, today, beauty and charisma will no longer suffice. It-girls must be active members of society to make the cut – with notable opinions and proven loyalty to the causes dominating the zeitgeist. Taylor Swift has frequently come under fire for failing to partake feminist activism, with some even likening her passiveness to Trumpian beliefs. Beyoncé, on the other hand, is celebrated not only for her appearance and musical talent, but also her unapologetically political standpoint — one that took the world’s lemons and made Lemonade. In 2018 this much is clear: the it-girl is no longer a passive product of the male gaze, but a fiercely empowered and emboldened individual with the power to make seismic change.

Header image: ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ Film Still via Wikimedia Commons

Loading next Article